3 November 2020
After landing the trifecta and a small bet on the winner, Vow And Declare, last year, let’s twice make it two in a row. As usual, I’ll run my process of elimination by looking at class, form, ability to run the distance, previous Melbourne Cup runs, the poor guide of the Caulfield Cup in recent years, international horses on their first run, mares (female horses) and weight. Top weights and mares rarely do well unless they are superstars and Vow And Declare is the only spark for Caulfield Cup placings (2nd last year) in recent times.
The past three years has seen European 3 year olds perform well, finishing third last year and winning the previous two. Due to the separate breeding season in the northern hemisphere, these horses are closer to 4 year olds on Australian time, so immaturity is much less of a factor while they are still nicely weighted. In contrast, a northern 4 year old is more seasoned and has plenty of exposed form, so ends up quite high in the weights. Weight, more specifically weight difference (weights are reduced in handicaps to even the field), makes a huge difference.
With the temperature forecast for 30 degrees, that might present a problem for some of the Europeans. Not only are they out of season, the track will likely be firm.
01 Anthony Van Dyck (IRE) 58.5kg $9
The class horse of the field and second in the Caulfield Cup. Never been over the distance and the weather would be a worry. Probably one to risk.
02 Avilius (GB) 57kg $51
Not in form.
03 Vow And Declare (AUS) 57kg $51
Last year’s winner hasn’t looked like winning since.
04 Master Of Reality (IRE) 56kg $20
Second over the line last year before relegated to fourth after a protest. Hasn’t done much since so go on last year.
05 Sir Dragonet (IRE) 55.5kg $11
Cox Plate winner probably a distance doubt and prefers a wet track.
06 Twilight Payment (IRE) 55.5kg $21
Flopped last year.
07 Verry Elleegant (NZ) 55.5kg $11
Caulfield Cup winner will need to be a superstar to win. Not sure she is. Also a doubt at the distance and prefers it wet.
08 Mustajeer (GB) 55kg $71
Flopped last year.
09 Stratum Albion (GB) 55kg $51
A bit of a plodder. Melbourne Cup winners need a sprint.
10 Dashing Willoughby (GB) 54.5kg $81
Flopped in the Caulfield Cup
11 Finche (GB) 54.5kg $19
Third try at it and always runs on without threatening. Likely a repeat.
12 Prince of Arran (GB) 54.5kg $10
Second last year (after a protest) and third the year before. Ran OK in the Caulfield Cup, which proves he’s at least settled in. The omen bet of the year as he starts from barrier 1 and has a female jockey (Jamie Kah). Just like Prince of Penzance in 2015 with Michelle Payne.
13 Suprise Baby (NZ) 54.5kg $8.50
Need to go on his good run last year when finishing a close 5th. In his few runs since, hasn’t done too much since so go on trust.
14 King of Leogrance (FR) 53.5kg $51
Not good enough.
15 Russian Camelot (IRE) 53.5kg $12
Best of the locally trained horses. Second in a Cox Plate after a hard run, and is a classy horse. Has champion jockey Damien Oliver on board.
16 Steel Prince (IRE) 53.5kg $41
Doesn’t seem quite up to standard and only 9th last year.
17 The Chosen One (NZ) 53.5kg $41
Third in the Caulfield Cup and a flop in last year’s Melbourne Cup. That sort of says two things: he’s average and so was this year’s Caulfield Cup.
18 Ashrun (FR) 53kg $23
I’ll have something on it just for the name. They wanted him to qualify by winning the Geelong Cup (4th) the Wednesday before last so had to win the Hotham Handicap on Saturday to get in. Has good form in Europe and down in the weights. The same trainer won in 2014 with Protectionist so he knows how to get a horse here. It’s whether running three times in such a short period will harm him – something unusual for European horses.
19 Warning (AUS) 53kg $51
Victoria Derby winner last year, and the only two horses to win that then the Melbourne Cup the following year were Efficient in 2007 and Phar Lap in 1930. Ran OK in the Caulfield Cup and was a close up in the Turnbull Stakes. The best of the long shots.
20 Etah James (NZ) 52.5kg $81
21 Tiger Moth (IRE) 52.5kg $7.50
Only his fifth start hence the very low weight for a horse that fits the classic profile of those northern hemisphere 3 year olds. His European form is good (in small fields) so will need to go on that and ignore any concerns with inexperience. With no crowds due to the mishandling of COVID-19 in Victoria, it’s only the big field of 24 horses that could frazzle him.
22 Oceanex (NZ) 51.5kg $71
Form not good enough.
23 Miami Bound (NZ) 51kg $35
24 Persan (AUS) 51kg $34
Progressive horse in super form in lower grades. If he can step up, who knows! When I was kid, all I ever did when selecting horses was look at their form, and Persan’s last six runs are 112121.
I’m launching for Prince of Arran due to his excellent previous runs and the omen factor with Prince of Penzance in 2015. Tiger Moth is clearly the horse to fear. They’ll be my main two best. I’ll also have a nibble on Ashrun and Persan at longer odds.
For the trifecta I’ll add Russian Camelot as the third horse. For my big trifecta, I include three horses first or second and a bunch in third. That’s how I landed it last year. My other trifecta is a simple 5-horse box (any 5 in any order in the first three) and will add Surprise Baby and Anthony Van Dyck in that mix.
Remember, it’s only gambling if you lose!
In an exciting race, Twilight Payment superbly led all the way to win from a fast closing Tiger Moth and Prince of Arran. Despite the winning dividend of $23 (so he was hardly an outsider), it was a win that no one predicted. Across the news and the horse racing channels, the only mention was that he was in better form than last year. Even then, his lack of a sprint wiped him as a chance, as the feeling was other horses would run past him like last year. The difference in 2020 was that he set a solid tempo, which took the sprint out of many horses and it was only the final stages as he tired that horses began to close.
Tiger Moth in second was sensational. He was second past the post the first time, was forced to do the chasing when Twilight Payment and then Finche put the pressure on, and then closed late, falling by about a half a length. Arguably Prince of Arran should have won to improve on his previous results of third and second. Jockey Jamie Kah was too impatient heading into the straight, weaving about trying to find a path through. Had she stuck behind The Chosen One 4th, she could have peeled off in plenty of time and likely caught the winner. By the time she got out for a run, it was too late. Kah said the horse was “super unlucky”. That’s an understatement. Clearly it’s a race that got away.
In fifth was Persan, who was behind Prince of Arran leading into the straight, and got through on the inside, to emphasise the chance missed by Prince of Arran. Many jockeys said their horses got too far back. In truth, in a solidly run race just 1 second off the race record, they weren’t quite good enough. Only Russian Camelot you could say failed to run the trip after looming as the winner. Of the favourites, Surprise Baby (13th) was the main failure. I always felt this horse was a bit of a hype machine. It had been specifically set for the race this year and the few runs it had in the past year were moderate. It’s like everyone believed the trainer was a secret magician. Sadly, Anthony Van Dyck had to be put down after a fracturing a leg upon entering the straight.
Even though I picked second and third, it was a wipeout for me as I don’t do place bets unless the horse is at big odds. It might also be time not to be so rigid to rules. Other than last year’s big success landing the trifecta, I have to go back to 2011 and 2010 to have picked the winner. Not since Brew in 2000 has a horse returned from a poor Cup result to win the following year. There’s often exceptions to rules, and in the case of Brew and Twilight Payment it was form. As a kid, that was the only thing I’d ever look at, and Twilight Payment’s last four runs were 2113. While I had him in my wide trifecta for third, he was definitely worth a nibble for the win. Always easy in hindsight.
1st Twilight Payment – Win $23, Place $6.50
2nd Tiger Moth – Place $2.40
3rd Prince of Arran – $3.30
4th The Chosen One
First Four: $38939.50
01 Twilight Payment
02 Tiger Moth
03 Prince Of Arran
04 The Chosen One
06 Sir Dragonet
07 Verry Elleegant
08 Russian Camelot
13 Surprise Baby
14 Miami Bound
15 Master Of Reality
16 Steel Prince
17 Etah James
18 Vow And Declare
20 Stratum Albion
21 Dashing Willoughby
DNF Anthony Van Dyck
SCR King of Leogrance